Weekly Reader: An Introduction to writer Yente Serdatsky

Yente Serdatsky was one of those writers once known to thousands—even tens of thousands—of Yiddish newspaper readers but never reached an audience beyond them. Serdatsky, who was born in Lithuania in 1877, lived for most of her life in Chicago, where she ran a soup kitchen and wrote short stories and sketches for the Forverts and other Yiddish publications. But she published only one book, and after a quarrel with Forverts editor Abraham Cahan in 1922 she stopped writing for 25 years. Recently, however, translators and Yiddish scholars have taken a new interest in Serdatsky, whose work often focuses on immigrant women like herself. In honor of her birthday on September 15, here is a brief introduction to Serdatsky from our website.

Ezra Glinter

Search for the Woman

Yente Serdatsky 1917 resized_0.jpg

While she received little formal recognition in her lifetime, Serdatsky was a writer of significant breadth whose diverse works reflected the lives of Jewish immigrant women and their struggles to reconcile traditional gender roles with radical politics and aspirations. She was a managing editor at the Forverts until 1922, and her work appeared in numerous journals and newspapers, often in the form of short prose fiction or one-act plays. The translation by Jessica Kirzane of this story originally appeared in the 2014 translation issue of Pakn Treger.


Read “Search for the Woman”

Young Dreams

Pakn Treger Trans Cover (crop).jpg

“An Old Woman with Young Dreams” was published in the Forverts on November 11, 1920, and was never reprinted. Narrated by a flaneuse who observes the city and its people, like many of Serdatsky’s stories this one offers a picture of the day-to-day unfulfilled longings and small pleasures of immigrant women in New York.


Read a translation of “An Old Woman with Young Dreams”

Letters to the Editor

Cover of Pakn Treger - Avrom Ovinu Receives a Letter and Other Yiddish Correspondence, a fountain pen glides over a page

When Serdatsky resumed writing in the late 1940s, she had to start pretty much from scratch. Her first port of call was the Nyu yorker wochenblatt (The New York Weekly). In order to convince the editor to let her write, she began sending letters to the paper. It worked: the letters were funny, they were published, and she ultimately convinced the editor to give her a column. This sampling of her first letters to the newspaper contains funny diatribes in which Serdatsky takes aim at her enemies, plays with her sassy new public persona, and manages to smoothly transition from a colorful crank who writes occasional letters to the editor into a regular contributor.


Read a selection of Serdatsky’s letters to the editor


One-Book Wonder

Yiddish text in black against a white background

Despite her prolific output in the Yiddish press, Serdatsky published just a single book, a collection of her collected writings that appeared in 1913. Fortunately, that book is still available in our Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library, where you can read it online.


Read Yente Serdatsky’s collected writings